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How many games are needed for a legitimate MLB season?

Many question the legitimacy of the 2020 shortened season. How many games are too few, then, and how many will we see this year?

MLB: JAN 09 MLB Lockout Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Baseball fans were dealt a significant blow this week when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the first two series of the regular season have been cancelled. More games could be in jeopardy, and they will likely depend on the progress of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

After the crazy week and a half of daily talks in Jupiter, FL, owners and players left Roger Dean Stadium and went their own ways. Hal Steinbrenner attended the meetings for the owners’ side, while Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was spotted with the players. MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem and chief union negotiator Bruce Meyer met for an hour and a half on Thursday and discussed the major issues on the CBA, but there weren’t any official proposals. There is no set date for the next encounter between the two sides.

This has all left baseball in a state of uncertainty. Manfred already called off six-to-seven games of the season, and there could be more if there isn’t a quick deal. What is a “quick deal,” then? When will we see baseball games that count being played? At which point the season stops being legitimate when it comes to stats and final results? Fans are full of questions.

Public findings — in this particular case, poll results from SB Nation surveys — give us an idea about what fans think would be the start of the regular season:

Kyle Thele

Nearly half of the fans believe that MLB will start its 2022 season in May (49 percent), while 23 percent believe the sides will reach a quick agreement and begin the season in April. June and July are third and fourth with 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

It’s possible, even likely, that the league wants to test the union’s patience and won’t negotiate in good faith for enough time to wipe the whole first month of the season. However, there will be a point in which owners (and possibly their RSN TV contracts) will suffer the consequences of the lost revenue if months go by without a deal. Yes, their pockets are much deeper, but everybody draws a line, and they are no exception.

As Jesse Rogers of ESPN said, “If owners are willing to miss April, we know they want May, June, etc., when fans come out. If players know that, wouldn’t it behoove them to sit out long enough to scare the league into believing the summer is in jeopardy?

“Just like owners might get a better deal when players feel the pain of losing money, perhaps the players believe the same,” Rogers continued. “Strategy can work both ways.”

The idea of players enduring the spring and summer without a deal is plausible, but unlikely. It would be a huge blow to their pockets; remember, around 60 percent of the players are slated to make the league minimum in 2022. At this point, we can only guess about how long the season will be.

Which brings us to our next item in SB Nation’s poll. People was asked what they thought a “legitimate season” would be. A full 162 games are almost unquestionably out of the question, but only 16 percent of those surveyed thought the campaign had to be played in full to be considered meaningful.

Kyle Thele

Exactly 40 percent of those taking the poll believe that 150 games are enough for the season to be considered legitimate, while 39 percent thought 125 would do the trick, too. Only 15 percent were content with players taking the field at least 100 times in order for the campaign to have some legitimacy.

Plenty of fans have questioned the legitimacy of the 60-game 2020 campaign, but many folks agree on the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers were deserving champs. It was definitely a weird season for stats, though, as José Abreu, for example, finished with a 165 wRC+ (by far his highest mark since his rookie year in 2014); more games are needed for certain numbers to stabilize. My personal standpoint is that 130-140 games are enough to make any specific season legitimate under almost any point of view.

How many games will we have in 2022? My guess is as good as yours, but I do believe that meaningful games will be played sometime in May. Both sides would lose too much if the lockout (or shall we say, the lack of a new CBA, which actually depends on both and not just one) is extended for too long.